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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | March 6, 2013

Maryland Guard partners with Bosnia for peace, security

By Amaani Lyle American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Armed forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina deployed with a military police task force to Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in January, thanks to ongoing training and integration with the Maryland National Guard.

The integration, which began in 2003 through the National Guard State Partnership Program, ranks among Bosnia’s best examples of interoperability since civil unrest began in the former Yugoslav republic region two decades earlier, said Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs.

“This partnership is a testament to the great strides Bosnia has made to become real contributors within the international security landscape,” Farkas said. “The troops are stepping up and showing significant progress in their capabilities and professionalism, moving them closer toward the goal of membership in the NATO alliance.”

Citing one of the most recent success stories of U.S. National Guard and foreign nation pairings, Farkas explained that Bosnia’s highly trained and capable force shows promise that would have seemed unachievable as recently as even the mid-1990s.

But the Maryland National Guard, she said, has brought a sense of community that distinguishes itself from conventional joint training missions.

“The Bosnians display a greater sense of pride, confidence and teamwork that builds on these military and security exchanges,” Farkas said. “The training they’re receiving from the Maryland National Guard has not only primed them to work outside the wire on International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan missions, but prepares them for international security involvement around the world.”

NATO officials said they have long since championed nation partnership and collaboration, concepts that have gained particular interest in an era of fiscal uncertainty.

“The partnership with Bosnia yields benefits that are hard to quantify on paper, but definitely indicates that forces there are now better equipped, more credible and soon ready to meet and exceed NATO standards – which ultimately creates efficiencies,” Farkas said.

Army Maj. Gen. James A. Adkins, Maryland’s adjutant general, said the program builds partnership capacity and relationships as it facilitates Bosnia and Herzegovina’s journey to NATO membership.

“We build relationships at the squad, platoon and company level, where these individuals work together time after time, and we’ve seen that come together in the Bosnian deployment with us to Afghanistan,” he said. “The Bosnians are willing and able partners in anything we do on the battlefield.”

In many cases, the general added, the training is reciprocal.

“They’ve provided sound instruction and expertise in dealing with mines and other things they’ve experienced in their country [so] we can take advantage of their knowledge,” he said.

Adkins also has seen the 20-year journey in Maryland’s additional partnership with Estonia, noting that both Maryland and Estonia are coastal states with populations centered in a large port city.

“It’s all about sharing our experiences as the National Guard and building trust and confidence in the citizens of their country,” Adkins said. “It’s also important to show the relevance of what the military does to support the local community in their country.”

Trust at the senior level resonates at all levels, and ideally allows U.S. and Bosnian troops to tackle problems, place resources against those problems and brainstorm on final solutions, Adkins added.

“It’s critical that everyone in the command sees the value of the exchanges and partnerships to develop that trust,” he said.

Farkas said she remains optimistic that Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to thrive within the State Partnership Program, which now features 65 participating nations that enhance U.S. combatant commanders’ capabilities around the world.

“There is still work to be done, but Bosnia certainly continues to move forward with the support of the State Department and National Guard integration,” she said.